Revolutionary Communist Party (PCR)

Electoral reform or revolution?

Five years after being indicted by the Attorney General's Office and the beginning of the trial against 38 people, mostly business people, deputies in parliament, former ministers, owners and directors of banks accused of crimes of corruption, embezzlement, formation of gangs and money laundering, the Federal Supreme Court (STF) ended the trial of Criminal Case 470, the so-called "leadership of the PT," condemning the majority of the accused. Among them were the former president and former treasurer of the Workers Party (PT), Jose Dirceu and Delubio Soares respectively.

In their defence before the Supreme Court, the lawyers for the majority of the defendants argued that there was no buying of votes in Congress, but there was illegal campaign financing of political parties.

The lawyer for federal deputy Valdemar Costa Neto (PR-SP [Party of the Republic – Sao Paulo]), Marcelo Luiz Avila de Bessa, maintained that his client, at that time president of the Liberal Party (PL), received 10 million reales from the PT, but that it was not related to vote buying, but to the election campaign of the candidates of the PL and to support the program of Lula and Jose Alencar in 2002. Marcelo Bessa stated that there had been an "agreement to ensure the electoral alliance between the PT and the PL in the 2002 presidential elections, leading to a financial agreement." "There was a fear in relation to the PT: that it would be the enemy of the business people, that it would nationalize the economy, and that it was necessary to place a business person who gave the appearance of that program, that it would not be a 'left-leaning' government. [...] They did not share the campaign funds. There was a proportional distribution in which the PT would get three-quarters of those funds (30 million reales), and the PL would get one-fourth (10 million reales). One cannot carry out a campaign without money. That's not wrong, "concluded the lawyer.

In the indictment, the Attorney General of the Republic, Roberto Gurgel, stated that in 2003 and 2004 Valdemar Costa Neto received an amount of 8.8 million reales to vote in favour of the federal government in the National Congress.

Arnaldo Malheiros Filho, the lawyer for Delubio Soares, stated in his client's defence that "The prosecutor never responded to a question: why was all that handed over in cash, why did they not make bank transactions? The truth is: because it was illegal. Delubio is a man who is not afraid to answer for what he did, he simply does not want to be condemned for what he did not do. That he used undeclared funds in the campaign, he did. He does not deny that it is illegal."

But what is the difference between buying votes of deputies to vote in the National Congress or buying the support of entire parties, and consequently of their deputies, through financing of their election campaign? Essentially, none.

The rising leadership

This is not the first time that a scandal about buying votes in the National Congress or buying a party has been denounced in Brazil.

In 1997, deputies Ronivon Santiago and Joao Maia, of the PFL [Liberal Front Party] from Acre, confessed in an interview in the newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo to having received about 200 thousand reales to vote in favor of an amendment providing for the re-election of the President of the Republic, thus favoring the president at that time, Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC). The two deputies further stated that the government intermediary for the buying of votes was the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Luiz Eduardo Magalhaes, son of Antonio Carlos Magalhaes, better known as Toninho Malvadeza. The amendment for reelection was approved, FHC was reelected and to this day he continues to receive his salary as a former president, and no one involved was even charged.

Still awaiting trial in the Federal Supreme Court in a corruption scandal carried out in favor of the PSDB [Brazilian Social-Democratic Party] by the same Mark Valerios and the Rural Bank during the campaign for the reelection of Governor Eduardo Azeredo in 1998 is the "leadership" of the PSDB. On December 3, 2009, by five votes to three, the Supreme Court accepted the indictment against Senator Eduardo Azeredo. But after almost three years the PSDB still governs the state of Minas Gerais and Eduado Azeredo, now a federal deputy, remains in the National Congress voting on laws, as do Collor, Sarney and Renan Calheiros, among others.

The truth is that both the case of buying votes to approve the amendment for FHC's reelection as well as buying the support of parties by illegal financing are clear evidence of weight of money that the capitalist class has in elections in a bourgeois democracy. Hence the maxim that: “One cannot carry out a campaign without money," or that "to win elections you need to have a lot of money."

Indeed, according to the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), the candidates for prefects and council members spent 3.59 thousand million reales in election campaigns this year. It is worth mentioning that this is not the total amount, because it does not include the total expenditures of the 100 candidates who were in the second round. This situation also led to a more right-wing composition in the country's municipalities and the non-election of several left-wing parliamentarians.

A good part of that money came from contractors who donated 270 million reales directly to the legal political parties. Andrade Gutierrez alone donated 18.5 million reales to the PT, 15.9 million reales to the PMDB [Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement], 13.5 million reales to the PSDB, 6.7 million reales to the PSB and 4.6 million reales to the PSD. Coincidentally, those were the parties that won the most prefectures in the country.

This is a repeat of what happened in the 2010 election, when the large corporations were responsible for 70% of the resources spent on the election of federal deputies and senators and 90% of the candidates for governor and President of the Republic.

It should be added that such parties are also the ones who have at their disposal the most time for propaganda on radio and television as well as exposure in the mass media. Obviously, with the spending of millions such as these it is difficult for a proletarian party, without making compromises with the capitalist class, to win an election. Therefore, before they proclaim the results of an election, the polling institutes forecast who are the favorites to win the elections, that is, those who have more money to spend on the campaign.

In fact, in a capitalist society, money is concentrated in the hands of the owners of the banks, industries and land. They choose which parties or politicians to finance, seeking to control the governments and parliaments. When they are victorious, these parties or their politicians try to reward the rich donations received with contracts, subsidies, favors, nomination for posts, shady deals, debt forgiveness (Forestry Code), tax deductions, favoring the payments received from the government, etc.

In such a system, the political parties that do not have a deep commitment to the workers, who are not truly revolutionary or cease to be so, end up as prisoners of the interests of the owners of money and slowly change their political positions and programs, thus betraying their principles. They claim in this new pragmatic approach that the times are different, although capitalism continues to promote the exploitation of man by man, making wars, plundering the wealth of dozens of countries, in short, more fiercely and violently than in the past century.

Public and private financing of elections

How, then, can one guarantee truly democratic and honest elections?

Clearly it is necessary to change the electoral system. Meantime, the electoral system does not exist by the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is the legitimate son of the economic and political system existing in society, that is, capitalism. Suffice it to note that in all bourgeois democracies, millions are spent on elections and the capitalist class, the owner of capital, ends up controlling the rulers.

The U.S., the world's leading capitalist country, is considered the most advanced democracy on the planet, and it is also where the most money is spent on elections; for the presidential election this year alone it is estimated that more than $2 thousand million dollars was spent.

Mitt Romney, presidential candidate for the Republican Party, had among his main financers the banks Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley Bank of America, Credit Suisse Group and the conglomerate Koch Industries, which operates in the fields of oil, agriculture, finance, mining, etc. In exchange for this support and under the pretext of economic incentives, Romney defended eliminating taxes on the richest people, cutting social programs of health care for the elderly and children and extending freedom of action for finance capital.

According to a study by the Centre for Responsive Politics, Barak Obama, candidate for reelection for the Democratic Party, also raised a third of the money for his campaign from the financial sector.

Given this situation, some people claim that it is enough to make electoral reforms and replace private financing of the elections with public financing. But even in countries where there is public financing, legal and illegal private financing ends up prevailing.

Look at the case of France. On January 29, 1993, the country adopted the Law for the Prevention of Corruption and for Transparency, in order to control the parties, candidates and use of money in elections. Among the various rules, the law states that donations made to candidates are public, prohibiting donations from casinos or those of foreign origin, that the submission of accounts is mandatory, as is the keeping of balance sheets by the candidates and parties and the disclosure of income received by the source and the nature of the expenses.

However, as was proved, former President Nicolas Sarkozy disrespected the law and illegally received resources for his campaign from the owner of L'Oreal, Liliane Bettencourt. According to an ongoing investigation, Liliane Bettencourt received governmental protection for embezzling millions in taxes, in exchange for these tax benefits she handed over envelopes with money to party members and to Sarkozy himself at dinners at his mansion. However, because he had immunity as president, only after leaving office was Sarkozy investigated.

Before him, former president Jacques Chirac was sentenced to two years in prison for having created fictitious jobs in the prefecture of Paris and having used money for his presidential campaign. However, because of his old age he did not serve the time.

In England in 2006, the government of Tony Blair was accused of selling positions in parliament and titles of Lords in exchange for a loan of 20 million euros from business person Gulam Noon for the election campaign of the Labor Party. Noon received the title of Lord after the loan, but because of the scandal his nobility was suspended.

In March of this year, the treasurer of the Conservative Party of the British Prime Minister David Cameron sold participation at a dinner with the Prime Minister for 298 thousand euros. At the banquet, it was said that whoever bought the invitation would have privileged access to the Prime Minister and influence on government policy.

As we see, both in France and England, countries with bourgeois democracy and public campaign financing, corruption and manipulation of the elections by the rich class determine the electoral game. This is natural for an egoistic system, whose greatest principle is that those who have the wealth have the power to choose the rulers that protect it and make wealthier. In other words, in the 21st century, bourgeois democracy remains "a restricted, truncated, false and hypocritical democracy, a paradise for the rich and a snare and a deception for the exploited, for the poor" (Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky). This is even more true today, when the whole process is protected by a powerful propaganda machine of the mass media controlled by the monopolies and the pollsters, at the service of those who have money to hire them, for the sole purpose of manipulating public opinion.

In this way, public financing of campaigns can, for a short time, reduce the perverse effect of money and its owners in elections, but then the capitalists will find ways and means to circumvent the laws and ensure continuity of their manipulation of the electoral process. Sometimes when a preferred candidate is not successful, thanks to the economic power that they hold, the capitalists try to bribe and corrupt those elected so that their interests continue to be untouchable and power remains in their hands. Thus, the weight of money, that is, the power of the owners of industry, the banks and agribusiness in the elections, will only cease to exist when wealth is no longer owned by a minority and passes over to social control, into the hands of the workers and people.

Now, as the control of the economy remains in the hands of the bourgeoisie, this class uses its economic power (capital) in elections in an increasingly brazen way, seeking to increase its control over the State. It may seem secondary, but when we see the river of money spent on election campaigns, we see that it makes all the difference.

Therefore, after the elections, the rulers are accountable to their financiers and not to their constituents. Just look at the constant subsidies, the tax exemptions and financing given by the governments to large companies, and the laws passed in Congress. There are cases, for example the Forestry Code, the Federal Law of rate and the budget, which does not reserve money to increase the salaries of public servants, but guarantees subsidies to automobile manufacturers, contractors and so-called agribusinesses regarding land reform waits in line, besides keeping the primary surplus and religiously paying interest on the notorious public debt.

Such a situation proves, once again, how illusory is the idea that elections under capitalism are democratic and that it is possible to promote profound political and social transformations while maintaining private ownership of the means of production.

Therefore, the struggle must be to completely change the system and not just carry out an electoral reform. In the meantime, to achieve this objective it is essential, in addition to carrying out a large campaign of denunciation of the people's suffering and to firmly defend the rights of the workers and youth, to convince the masses of the limitations of the bourgeois electoral system and its false democracy. And the best way to carry out this agitation, at this time, is to participate in elections to denounce the corruption and manipulation by the wealthy classes and their parties, which aim to maintain poverty, approve laws and benefits for the elites.

This reality in capitalist countries imposes on revolutionaries the need, if they want to make a genuine revolution, to be linked hand in glove with the workers and exploited masses, to organize and develop many more struggles and to work tirelessly to raise the consciousness and organization of the masses. In other words, one must make a profound reflection on the work that we are currently developing among the people, to question whether we are doing this on a daily basis and in a correct manner, if we are recruiting new members and organizing them at the necessary pace, in short, whether our mass work is being developed in a correct and revolutionary manner. This is an urgent question because, as we know, only a party strongly linked to the people can confront and defeat the power of capital.

Luiz Falcao
(PCR Central Committee member)

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